April 18, 2019
Director's Column

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: PNNL’s Commitment to Transform the World

Transforming the world through science and technology

Originally Published in the Tri-City Herald on April 18, 2019
PNNL Microscope

Materials scientist Ziqing Zhai and her colleagues at PNNL are working to advance the frontiers of knowledge, enhance energy resiliency and strengthen national security. COURTESY PNNL

At the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, our 4,400 exceptional staff members are committed to transforming the world through science and technology. These diverse employees — your friends, neighbors and family members — do amazing things every day that advance the frontiers of knowledge, enhance energy resiliency and strengthen national security. They also are committed to our community, giving back in many ways as individuals and through organized volunteer opportunities.

Our researchers are advancing scientific discovery in disciplines ranging from chemistry and materials science to biology and climate change. They are creating new catalysts and identifying the biomarkers of disease. They are exploring the biogeochemical processes that occur in fragile coastal ecosystems and revealing the mysteries of the universe by studying the physics of dark matter. This new knowledge will lead to novel energy sources and improved human health, as well as deepen our understanding of our planet and the cosmos.

PNNL researchers are working hard to enhance our nation’s energy resiliency and enable a cleaner energy future. To this end, PNNL co-leads DOE’s effort to design a future power grid that will incorporate increasing amounts of renewable energy, reliably and affordably. Our scientists are developing advanced chemistries and materials for grid-scale batteries to store this renewable energy and provide backup power for longer periods. And they are designing the grid and its myriad smart devices to be cyber secure.

In the area of national security, PNNL is at the forefront of countering what are known as weapons of mass effect, developing the science and technology to detect, prevent and, if necessary, respond to cyber, chemical, biological and nuclear threats. For example, PNNL experts provide invaluable advice on the nuclear capabilities of potential adversaries. Central to this are our unmatched capabilities in ultra-trace radiation detection. On the cyber front, PNNL expertise in data analytics and machine learning is being used to develop tools to protect our nation from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

STEM Ambassadors
IT engineer Carolyn Cramer and her colleagues from across different research areas shared their passion for science

Although our scientists and engineers may garner the headlines, their accomplishments would not be possible without the dedicated support professionals who enable their research and provide essential services. Our success depends on those working in IT, finance, communications and human resources. And this year, we are particularly grateful for our tireless facility operations and maintenance staff members who dealt with record-breaking snowfall.

We know that we cannot do all this by ourselves, which is why PNNL partners extensively with others. Last year, for example, we launched five new joint institutes with Washington State University, the University of Washington and Oregon Health & Science University. We also collaborate with industry, like our work with LanzaTech on catalytic processes that enabled Virgin Atlantic to make its first flight with jet fuel produced from waste carbon.

Finally, we are investing in our future. We are in the middle of a decade-long campus transformation that has already delivered four new buildings, with plans to soon break ground on a $90 million energy sciences facility. Our efforts to develop and inspire the next-generation workforce include our science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and outreach efforts, as well as $273,000 in STEM contributions in 2018 alone. Additionally, we invest in the community through individual charitable giving and Battelle corporate philanthropy. Battelle has contributed a total of $28 million to our community since it began managing and operating PNNL for DOE in 1965.

Looking ahead, PNNL will face new challenges as we strive to advance scientific discovery, improve energy resiliency and enhance national security. We will be unwavering in our commitment to deliver scientific leadership and impact, and in so doing, we will help to make the world a bit better.

Published: April 18, 2019